It is evident that, when it comes to supporting workers’ mental health, companies aren’t doing enough; the Health and Safety Executive revealed that, for the first time, work-related stress, anxiety or depression accounted for more than half of all working days lost due to ill health in the UK in 2018.
Employees could be privately struggling when they walk through the office door each morning to slump at a desk in a toxic, always "switched on" and long-working-hours environment.
Today's World Mental Health Day (10 October) has the potential to kick-start conversations around mental wellness and reduce the stigma that prevents people from opening up to an employer and saying: "I'm not OK today". But it's also easy to be tokenistic – to simply recruit an office dog and offer meditation classes.
On top of companies' legal duty to protect employees from stress at work, mental well-being needs to be ingrained in adland’s culture; asking to work from home to fit around a therapy session needs to be as normal as asking to work around a dental appointment.
So Campaign asked a selection of agencies: what do you do to support your staff’s mental well-being?
Businesses should not be set up on success at all costs, but instead on the fundamental foundations of understanding and treating the threat of workplace stress and the negative impact it has.
This includes ensuring an atmosphere of openness and creating safe spaces to talk about shared experiences, where people don’t feel embarrassed or judged in asking for help. And if people do need time off for depression or any other mental health-related issue, they get it.
But it’s also important that we teach our people about good mental health. So at Dark Horses, we have regular workshops with The Naked Professor, a mindfulness coach comes in regularly and we do sports challenges together (such as the Ten Peak challenge last weekend), to name but a few.
We want people to bring their whole selves to work and we do a variety of things to support this.
Self Space in an incredible service that provides face-to-face counselling, seven days a week. It’s anonymous for people to book and we have subscribed to make it available to everyone at Goodstuff, whenever they need it.
We have mental-health first-aiders internally who are available to talk to and help people with any challenges they may be facing and offer one-to-one and group guided mindfulness sessions for Goodstuffers.
We also dedicate specific times to encourage good mental health, including our biannual Feelgood weeks to Mental Health Awareness Day, where we host a series of events, workshops and mindfulness sessions run by external speakers and trainers, as well as fellow Goodstuffers.
Put simply, it’s our job to try to create a culture that enables everyone to outperform and they do that when they bring their whole selves to work.
We can point to our initiatives designed specifically to support mental well-being (such as our wellness lounge, mental-health ambassadors and a year-round programme of mentoring, talks and coaching spanning mindfulness, meditation and personal development), but it is also the decisions we make as a business that affect our teams’ happiness and healthiness.
That’s not to say we’ve got it all figured out.
For us, it’s about an ongoing, permanent conversation that not only shows support but educates our people on coping mechanisms and talking about mental-health conditions that we might not already understand.
We started 2019 with a well-being month and launched regular mental health conversations hosted by our mental-health first-aid team. We promote awareness of mental health with external and internal speakers sharing expert views, weekly exercise programmes, discussions and more.
We’re proud to have opened the conversation, so that every member of our team feels comfortable to face their own challenges, as well as recognise when the person next to them needs support. It’s a start to what will continue to grow and evolve so that our agencies always feel supported.
M&C Saatchi Group
Since launching in 2018, The Together Network has been working to support employees at every level of the organisation with their physical and mental health. We focus on three pillars – raising awareness of our physical and mental well-being, providing support for those in need and promoting positive well-being for all.
Working closely with our people team, we have refined our wellness policies, hired an in-house psychotherapist, trained 16 mental-health first-aiders and introduced initiatives which provide employees with useful, tangible actions that they can take into their everyday lives.
This year alone, we have hosted panel discussions on "Opening up about mental health at work" and "Thriving, not surviving", and been joined by industry experts such as CALM, Shahroo Izadi (author of The Kindness Method) and Toni Jones to launch our Shelf Help Book Club.
There has been a highly positive change in the public discourse on mental health, driven in part by recent headlines from unexpected sources, such as the royal family.
We have a unified commitment to normalising conversations around mental health and well-being, and developing a positive and supportive environment where our people can thrive and flourish.
We have built a cross-agency network of internal platforms to support employee well-being, through partnerships with organisations such as The Performance Club, Mindfulness at Work, Mind, Mend, Mental Health Foundation and the IPA. Delivered in TED-style talks, physical exercise training (reiki, martial arts), emotional resilience workshops, art classes and more, aiming to debunk the misconception that mental health is a no-go subject at work.
Seventy per cent of our teams are actively participating in the Time to Change employer pledge, offering awareness training for all staff to identify, understand and speak about mental health to help end any stigma associated. They’ve also set up dedicated mental health ambassadors who have received specialist training from charities to support the health of all staff. All employees also have access to 24/7 support and anyone signed up to our private healthcare plan can access therapy support without the need for GP referral.
Last week, during National Inclusion Week, we ran an internal campaign that asked staff to "step up, speak up". To be more mindful of our differences, we need to talk to one another, so we hosted a range of events, including an "inclusivi-tea". The aim was to get to people talking over a cup of tea with colleagues they weren’t familiar with. Managers were given a handy guide to help facilitate discussions with their teams.
At TRO, we are committed to creating a safe environment for our people to feel supported and free to talk openly about their feelings without fear of judgment. To do this effectively, it is important that the whole company feels empowered, responsible and has a stake in creating a work environment conducive to this.
We have created the Mind Matters task force and will be providing mental-health first-aid training. We’re also in the six-month trial phase of our Agency Pulse Point App, which was designed for everyone at TRO to anonymously share how they feel their work week has been. It has been such a valuable tool when it comes to us understanding our people.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that we, and most agencies, don’t do enough yet.
We’re at the beginning of our journey to create an agency that truly supports people in their whole lives – at work and beyond – and gives back as much as they put in.
We are focused on creating an open and transparent culture, from flexible working hours and transparent HR policies to our contemplation room, where people can catch their breath or pray, and making sure our leadership team is accessible.
We have an official time off in lieu policy to make sure people who go above and beyond get time back to recharge.
We’re debuting a corporate partnership with Headspace to give free access to all our employees.
We’re training mental-health first-aiders to create visible allies in the agency for people to speak to in confidence and help us provide a supportive community.
We've got a family vibe at Amplify - it’s about being there for each other at all times: the good times – like celebrating new houses and kids – but equally important is being there when life isn't so great.
We have a solid line management structure alongside an open door policy across the agency creating an outlet for individuals at all levels and we underpin this with a mentor programme that facilitates two-way conversation and openness.
Our 'mini management team' for under-27s acts as a steering committee for the agency that keeps us true to our values and vibe and our Women of Amplify invites inspiring speakers into the agency for thought provoking sessions
We want to encourage the team to explore and further their passions. So if someone is running a club night, or is an aspiring artist of any sort, a talented actor or a travel addict, we want to support them in achieving their ambitions, be that time off, sabbaticals, studio support or financial advice. Many have used this support to kick start new careers and businesses in entirely new areas.